Experiencing the Caribbean Coast of Colombia is exciting and invigorating. The Caribbean Coast is full of history, beautiful beaches, good food, and incredible landscapes. Today, we want to give you our recommendations for getting the most out of a 5-7 day trip along the Caribbean Coast of Colombia.
Cartagena (2-3 days)
Perhaps the most popular city to visit on the Caribbean Coast, Cartagena is a must see for anyone traveling the region. In Cartagena, you’ll want to spend at least one day roaming the streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Walled City. Inside the Walled City, you’ll find some stunning churches, such as la Catedral de Cartagena and the Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, the Cartagena branch of the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), and the Museum of the Inquisition as well as a host of boutique shops, souvenir stores, and scrumptious restaurants.
Outside the walled city, you should be sure to check out local beaches in Bocagrande where you can enjoy coconut water and popular music as you look out over the Caribbean Sea and also explore the neighbourhood la Manga where you will find off the beaten path restaurants and a variety of good bars and clubs if you are interested in checking out the nightlife in Cartagena.
Lastly, make sure to spend a day exploring the Rosary Islands (Islas del Rosario), an archipelago located about 30 minutes-45 minutes by boat from Cartagena. Here, you can snorkel amongst some of the most famous coral reefs in Colombia and enjoy some relaxation on beaches that look like they jumped right off a postcard.
Barranquilla (1 day)
From Cartagena, catch a bus to the Carnival city, Barranquilla. Here, make sure you try the traditional Caribbean breakfast served at the famous restaurant Narcobollo. After breakfast, head out to Bocas de Ceniza where you can see the most important river in Colombia, the Magdalena River, empty into the Caribbean Sea as you take a small train ride. Once you’ve had time to take in the view, hail a taxi to the neighbourhood of Las Flores to enjoy a traditional Caribbean lunch of fried fish, coconut rice, and green plantains.
With your stomach content, head to the historic neighbourhood of el Prado and take a walk, appreciating the historic homes around you. When you need a rest, pop into a local coffee shop and re-energize with some Colombian coffee before heading down to the Museum of the Caribbean (Museo del Caribe) where you can learn about the history and development of the Caribbean Coast.
To end your day in Barranquilla, make your way to the famous la Cueva bar and restaurant, and enjoy a traditional dinner with good drinks in the same space where the Barranquilla Group, including members such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alejandro Obregón, used to meet.
Santa Marta (2-3 days)
After a day Carnival-ing in Barranquilla, take another bus to the city of Santa Marta. Here, you will want to make sure you visit the Quinta de San Pedro Alejadrino, a preserved panela (unrefined cane sugar) hacienda where the famous South American liberator, Simón Bolívar, spent his last days. You will also want to check out the Catedral de Santa Marta, which is argued to be the oldest church in South America.
While in Santa Marta, you will also want to take advantage of day trips or overnight trips to the following areas:
Parque Tayrona may be the most well-known national park in all Colombia. It is a massive park, home to some of the most beautiful beaches and coastal views on the Caribbean Coast—one beach even has water that glitters with appears to be flakes of 14k gold. The park is also home to some amazing hiking and trekking paths that lead you to indigenous communities and lookout points with great views. While you can definitely enjoy Parque Tayrona with a day trip, you may want to consider staying overnight if you decide to trek or hike through the park or if you want to truly take in all the park has to offer.
A small mountain town located about an hour outside Santa Marta, Minca is a cool (literally) getaway that offers you a reprieve from the Caribbean heat, incredible views of Santa Marta, amazing encounters with the unique flora and fauna of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and the chance to see top quality coffee being grown, harvested, dried, roasted, and ground to perfection at La Victoria Coffee Farm. Like Parque Tayrona, you could see Minca via day trip, but you would do well to spend a night here and take your time enjoying this beautiful little town.
So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and start planning your trip, now!
Until next time,
The Uncover Colombia Team